How Moana Messed Me Up

When I think about movies I want to see in theaters, I place them in one of three categories. There’s the top tier- movies I must see in theaters, maybe even opening night. Then comes middle tier- movies I would like to see in theaters, but will take my time to see. Finally, at the bottom tier comes movies I will see if invited or if bored with a friend.

Despite being a new Disney animated feature, Moana fell into the third tier for me. I really don’t know why it did, I’m usually the first one out the door when it comes to Disney Studios and Pixar films. I think it may have just been a sheer lack of someone to convince me to see it. The last day before my good friend Zack (go check out his YouTube channel 123zc1, it’s well worth your time) and I left for the semester, we had a few hours to kill. We made a last minute decision to finally see Moana, and boy was that decision well made.

Moana is not the best Disney film by any means. Movies like The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame take that position. However, it is by far the one I’ve personally connected with the most, making it my hands down favorite. I can definitely say that Zack felt very similarly, but at a stronger level, as he was crying throughout most of the movie.

I’m entering a crossroads in my life that has put me in existential disarray. I will be graduating college, and entering the “real world” this year. I know that I will have to get a 9-5 job, and probably live with my parents until I can save up enough to leave Florida. Although not thrilled, I have come to terms with this seemingly inevitable future. This is the path for someone with a passion that does not lead directly to a sustainable career. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a driving passion in my life. Since a very young age, I have always wanted to be an author. Writing fictional stories is my calling. My characters live in my mind like real friends and family, becoming fully realized even before they are put to paper. Having written my first novel last year, I can tell you firsthand that there is nothing more thrilling and satisfying then acting upon your passion.

I can’t talk about the experience of seeing Moana at this time in my life without talking about the accompanying short film. Inner Workings follows the story of a man who is living the exact path I face. The moral of the short is that you have to include little things in your 9-5 office life that make you happy, or else you’ll be miserable. However, I’ve had some influences in my life over the past year that have made this short mean a bit more to me. The Pro Crastinators are a group of YouTube content creators that have served as my main creative influence and entertainment source over the past year or so. Each member serves as a shining beacon of success from abandoning the normal path, and focusing their entire lives on their creative passions. Whether it be anime analysis, writing/drawing comics, or documenting their slow path towards insanity on video, they have embraced their true purpose, and abandoned their ties to the typical life structure that society enforces. In other words, they are a very hedonistic, but intelligent bunch. They would take Inner Workings, and throw it in the trash. I can’t say whether the Pro Crastinators are the angel or the devil on my shoulder. What I can say is that Inner Workings falls right alongside with the ideals of my parents, grandparents, and mentors/advisors, who all believe that a stable 9-5 job is the way to go. Just add a few small things that give you joy and you’re good to go.

If Inner Workings represents the ideals of my family, Moana is the mindset of the Pro Crastintors. The very meaning behind the entire plot of the film is to ignore what society deems to be the correct life path, and follow the passion you have in your heart. Moana has a deep-seated desire to explore the ocean. However, her entire family and village swears by never leaving the island they inhabit, and fulfilling the traditional life path that they have all taken. The only human character who encourages Moana to act on her passion is her grandmother. Gramma Tala is to Moana what Jesse Wood is to me: the voice on one of my shoulders telling me to screw society and follow my passion for writing fiction. While the ocean in the film is a literal entity that calls to Moana from inside her heart, it is clearly symbolic of her internal passion.

I would like you to read the following lyrics. They are to one of the climatic songs of the film, I Am Moana. The first stanza is the ghost of Moana’s grandmother singing to her (I believe this ghost not to literally be present, but in her head). The second stanza is of Moana herself responding. I believe these words perfectly reflect the entire point of Moana as a work of art, and hope you agree:

 

I know a girl from an island

She stands apart from the crowd

She loves the sea and her people

She makes her whole family proud

Sometimes the world seems against you

The journey may leave a scar

But scars can heal and reveal just

Where you are

The people you love will change you

The things you have learned will guide you

And nothing on earth can silence

The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper

Moana, you’ve come so far

Moana, listen

Do you know who you are?

 

Who am I?

I am a girl who loves my island

I’m the girl who loves the sea

It calls me

I am the daughter of the village chief

We are descended from voyagers

Who found their way across the world

They call me

I’ve delivered us to where we are

I have journeyed farther

I am everything I’ve learned and more

Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me

It’s like the tide; always falling and rising

I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me

That come what may

I know the way

I am Moana!

 

I just need to replace all the specifics of the lyrics with things about me, and this song becomes about me. That’s the beauty of Moana as a piece of cinema. The film is made for self insert; you can’t help yourself but look at everything metaphorically. You can replace the plot elements, setting, specific passions, and characters with things that apply to you, and the story still works. Moana is the story of a girl following the voice inside her heart, and embracing her true passion. That’s the most inspiring thing imaginable to me, and that’s why this movie messed me up.

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Top 3 Albums of 2016

We can all agree that 2016 wasn’t the greatest year. However, if there was one medium that got me through all the chaos, it was music. Nothing shortened the agonizing metro rides more than the sounds of MZShaidu and Casey Williams. There were three albums in particular this year that rose above the rest, proving that this decade has still got it when it comes to music. Here are my top 3 albums of 2015:

 

#3- RWBY Volume 3: The Original Soundtrack

Artist: Jeff & Casey Williams

Genre: Soundtrack

RWBY has the hands down greatest soundtracks of any piece of visual media. Not only does the music compliment the show perfectly, but each volume’s soundtrack stands alone as a fantastic album in its own right. Although RWBY Volume 1 still holds up as my favorite album of the trio, Volume 3 is a close contender. This album covers the gamut of genre and tone, ranging from upbeat pop tracks to somber orchestral pieces. Variety isn’t its only impressive feat. Each individual song is some of the best its genre has to offer. Divide is one of my all time favorite metal songs. Cold, with its beautiful orchestral backing, manages to make me tear up with each listening. Whichever genre of music you prefer, this album has it all, and at top quality for that matter.

 

#2- Bedroom Bedrock

Artist: MZShaidu (Vocals by Digibro and Endless Jess)

Genre: Rap

When I found out that Digibro and Endless Jess, my two all time favorite YouTubers and some of my biggest creative inspirations, were making a rap album together, I was ecstatic. This hype was only amplified when I learned that MZShaidu (Digibro’s brother), one of the best electronic musicians working today, was producing the beats. Despite my anticipation, Bedroom Bedrock did not disappoint. It quickly became my most listened to album of the year; I’ve probably heard it about 30 times all the way through. However, what stands out about Bedroom Bedrock to me the most is that it managed to make me appreciate a genre of music that I formerly hated- rap. The masterful writing of both Digibro and Endless Jess was extremely evident in the lyrics of every single track. It made me understand that rap wasn’t simply an outlet for artists to talk about all the sex and money that they have; rap can be poetry. Songs like Get Action! and ROTTEN are some of the most clever, well-written, and relatable “poems” I’ve ever heard. Listening to this album brought me back to the days where I was obsessed with poetry, reading legends like Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman for the first time. If you don’t like rap based on the same assumptions I had, you should definitely give this album a listen.

 

#1- Sunset Memories

Artist: ODDEEO

Genre: Synth Wave & Vocaloid

Sunset Memories is an album that was meant for 2016. In a year full of stark pessimism, we needed this. The short, but masterful record transports listeners into a future of optimism. This is a world of sprawling metropolis, flying cars, and humans coexisting seamlessly and peacefully with robots. The biggest worry the album’s protagonist has to face is falling in love with her best friend. The fact that he is a robot isn’t even an afterthought. The best part about Sunset Memories is that everything I just mentioned isn’t even expressed through lyrics. The genius world building is all ingrained in the aesthetic of the music. This is especially made apparent in the fantastic music video for This Feeling is a Cliche, which is a must watch, regardless if you are planning to listen to the album in its entirety. That’s what makes Sunset Memories so genius; it builds an entire world without even saying a single word about it. I know this expression is thrown around alot, but sitting back and closing your eyes while listening to this album will transport you. You will forget about all of the stress and worry of your daily life, and, just like Retro Gumi and Chromo 2000, focus on love in a beautiful future. If that isn’t something that people need this year, then I don’t know what is.